Each MLB Team's Most Shocking 1st-Half Performer
The first half of the 2013 MLB season is rapidly drawing to a close, and every team is experiencing at least one major surprise.
It's impossible to predict the future for a team in sports, and these guys are proving that to be true once again this year.
With the All-Star break approaching quickly, let's take a look at the most shocking player (good or bad) for each team.
Arizona Diamondbacks: SP Patrick Corbin
2012 Stats: 17 GS, 6-8, 4.54 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 0.7 WAR
2013 Stats: 17 GS, 9-0, 2.49 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 3.0 WAR
Patrick Corbin really burst onto the scene in 2013 after posting mediocre numbers in his rookie campaign last season.
Corbin has been dominant in 2013, quickly going 9-0 in 11 starts before his offense quieted down. He has gone at least seven innings pitched in nine of his 16 starts, including each of his last three.
What is truly amazing is that he has become a consistent source of wins for the Diamondbacks, as the team is 15-1 when Corbin makes the start. The team also has a run differential of plus 2.6 when Corbin pitches.
This is a huge turnaround for a guy who struggled in his first season in the majors. The biggest difference from year to year for the 23-year-old Corbin has been the number of home runs he has surrendered. Last year he gave up 14 long balls in 107.0 innings, whereas this year he's cut that number in half, to seven in 109.2.
You'd probably never heard of Patrick Corbin going into the year, but now everyone knows this budding star.
Atlanta Braves: C Evan Gattis
2012 Stats: N/A
2013 Stats: .252 BA, 14 HR, 37 RBI, .577 SLG, .894 OPS, 1.8 WAR
I could've easily talked your ear off about Justin Upton's power surge this year, blasting 15 home runs in the first half of the season after hitting just 17 the year before.
However, the biggest surprise for the Braves has been the emergence of catcher Evan Gattis, who went from a depressed janitor to one of the top catchers in the MLB.
After committing to Texas A&M out of high school, Gattis instead checked into a rehab facility for marijuana and alcohol. He was afraid of failing a drug test and never played college ball.
After rehab he tried playing for Seminole State College in Oklahoma but got hurt, quit baseball and mentally snapped (via First Coast News):
I was sitting in a classroom. and I just started crying. I was just like, "This is not what I want my life to be like." So I packed up my bags and got in the car, like, "I'm done."
Gattis' road would lead him to Colorado to work in a ski resort, Wyoming to work in a restaurant, Texas to work as a janitor and New Mexico to seek spiritual guidance.
According to USA Today, Gattis seriously considered suicide before he found his love for baseball once again:
I was in a mental hospital. I couldn't sleep for an entire week, and I knew something was wrong with me. So I got admitted. I was so depressed, all I could think about was killing myself.
I wanted to kill myself for a long time.
Gattis would eventually overcome his depression and work hard to make it back to the majors.
He was supposed to be no more than a fill-in for Brian McCann when the season started, but after hitting home runs in four of his first eight games, Gattis proved that he is much, much more.
Gattis is now tied for the fourth-highest WAR among NL catchers and even leads NL catchers in home runs. He has outperformed McCann in every way this season, and when he returns from the DL, it will be to find that he has carved out a substantial role with Atlanta.
No one could've seen this coming a few years ago, but Gattis is now an elite catcher.
Baltimore Orioles: 1B Chris Davis/3B Manny Machado
2012 Stats (Davis): .270 BA, 33 HR, 85 RBI, .501 SLG, .827 OPS, 1.3 WAR
2013 Stats (Davis): ..327 BA, 32 HR, 83 RBI, ..722 SLG, 1.123 OPS, 4.2 WAR
2012 Stats (Machado): .262 BA, 7 HR, 8 doubles, 26 RBI, .445 SLG, .739 OPS, 1.5 WAR
2013 Stats (Machado): .319 BA, 6 HR, 38 doubles, 42 RBI, .481 SLG, .830 OPS, 5.0 WAR
*Italics indicate MLB lead
I could have picked either Chris Davis or Manny Machado for the Orioles' biggest surprise, but either way I'd have been leaving out one of the biggest surprises in baseball. I would be simultaneously right and wrong, and it'd be a disservice to pick one of these guys over the other.
So why not both?
Because Davis has increased his batting average by 60 points and is on pace for 56 home runs (the most in the MLB since Ryan Howard's 2006 season), he has proved that he deserves to be on this list.
Because Machado has followed up a lackluster rookie campaign overshadowed by Bryce Harper and Mike Trout by hitting the most doubles and posting the third-best WAR in the MLB, he warranted a spot on this list as well.
Both of these guys went from solid players to some of the best in the game from 2012 to 2013, and they are the biggest reason why Baltimore is on track for its first back-to-back postseason appearances in 16 years.
Boston Red Sox: DH David Ortiz
2012 Stats: 90 GP, .318 BA, 23 HR, 60 RBI, .611 SLG, 1.026 OPS, 2.9 WAR
2013 Stats: 63 GP, .319 BA, 16 HR, 59 RBI, .602 SLG, 1.009 OPS, 2.2 WAR
David Ortiz seems to get better with age, and he posted great numbers in 2012 at the age of 36. However, his 2012 campaign ended early with an Achilles injury that sidelined him for the last two-and-a-half months of the season.
Expectations were not high when a 37-year-old Ortiz came back from injury. His body had gone through some serious wear and tear, and this seemed like one injury too many.
Ortiz shattered everyone's expectations, coming back and picking up right where he left off before he went down with the injury.
Big Papi leads the Red Sox in home runs, RBI and OBP, and he has been the centerpiece of the team's offense.
Ortiz's successful comeback sparked the Red Sox to take the best record in the American League, and he has Boston fighting for a World Series.
Chicago Cubs: SS Starlin Castro
2012 Stats: .283 BA, 14 HR, 78 RBI, .430 SLG, .753 OPS, 3.4 WAR
2013 Stats: .236 BA, 4 HR, 26 RBI, .329 SLG, .601 OPS, -1.4 WAR
Starlin Castro is the first player on this list for the wrong reasons.
Castro went from a 20-year-old phenom who hit .300 in each of his first two seasons in the MLB to a guy who played all 162 games and belted 14 home runs in 2012 and had the best WAR among NL shortstops to the worst shortstop in the MLB.
It's been a tough year for Castro, whose first three years warranted lofty expectations as he continued to mature. His minus-1.3 WAR is the worst among MLB shortstops and is the second worst in the National League.
Castro can't even make solid contact, and he is on pace for the worst batting average and second-worst power numbers of his career.
It's been a tough year for the Cubs, who sit 15.5 games back in the NL Central, and Castro hasn't helped.
Chicago White Sox: 2B Jeff Keppinger
2012 Stats: .325 BA, 9 HR, 40 RBI, .439 SLG, .806 OPS, 2.4 WAR
2013 Stats: .250 BA, 2 HR, 23 RBI, .302 SLG, .579 OPS, -1.6 WAR
Believe it or not, Jeff Keppinger's numbers looked even worse than they do now just a few days ago. After going 6-for-8 with a home run and four RBI in his past two games, Keppinger's batting average shot up from .229 to .246, and he doubled his home-run total.
Nonetheless, Keppinger has been among the worst players in the MLB. His minus-1.5 WAR is the second worst in baseball, and his batting average is still the second worst among AL second basemen.
After having the best year of his career in 2012, Keppinger's batting average has fallen almost 80 points, his power numbers are down, and he is arguably the worst player in the game today.
Talk about a decline.
Cincinnati Reds: SP Mike Leake
2012 Stats: 30 GS, 8-9, 4.58 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 0.6 WAR
2013 Stats: 16 GS, 7-3, 2.52 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 2.5 WAR
Mike Leake has undergone a complete transformation from last year to this year.
The 25-year-old Leake entered the season with a career ERA above 4.00 and coming off his worst year in terms of ERA. He got shelled last season and posted the first losing record of his career as well.
After an important offseason, Leake has come out firing on all cylinders. While he struggled in April, he posted ERAs of 1.87 and 1.76 in May and June, respectively.
Leake has been on fire as of late, and he has become the best pitcher the Reds have. If he stays this hot, he'll have a chance to steal the Cy Young this year.
Cleveland Indians: 2B Jason Kipnis
2012 Stats: .257 BA, 14 HR, 76 RBI, .379 SLG, .714 OPS, 3.7 WAR
2013 Stats: .301 BA, 13 HR, 54 RBI, .535 SLG, .921 OPS, 3.9 WAR
Jason Kipnis wasn't bad in 2012, but he certainly wasn't as dominant as he's been this season.
Kipnis has been on fire this year, raising his batting average by 42 points, but, more importantly, showing off his power by raising his slugging by a ludicrous 150 points.
Kipnis leads MLB second basemen in OPS, showing off a combination of contact and power unique among his peers.
He has become a true star for the Cleveland Indians this year, helping lead the team to the top of the AL Central.
Colorado Rockies: RF Michael Cuddyer
2012 Stats: .260 BA, 16 HR, 58 RBI, .489 SLG, .806 OPS, 0.5 WAR
2013 Stats: .343 BA, 15 HR, 52 RBI, .594 SLG, .990 OPS, 1.6 WAR
Michael Cuddyer's hitting streak may have come to an end on Tuesday night, but his 27-game streak remains the longest this year by seven games.
In his second year with the Colorado Rockies, Cuddyer has been a hitting machine, batting close to .340. His power numbers are also way up, raising his slugging by almost 100 points, and he is on pace to finish with roughly 11 more homers and 32 RBI.
He leads all MLB outfielders in batting average, as he has become one of the top contact hitters in the game today.
Detroit Tigers: SP Justin Verlander
2012 Stats: 33 GS, 17-8, 2.64 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 7.5 WAR
2013 Stats: 18 GS, 9-5, 3.54 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 2.5 WAR
Just two years removed from winning an AL Cy Young Award and becoming the first pitcher in 20 years to win the MVP, Justin Verlander looks like a middle-of-the-rotation starter.
The Detroit Tigers ace has looked lost. While he started the year off well, he posted an ERA of 6.41 in the month of May, and his ERA has hovered around 4.00 since then.
If he keeps this pace up, Verlander will finish with the worst year of his career since 2008, when he went 11-17. Ouch.
Houston Astros: C Jason Castro
2012 Stats: .257 BA, 6 HR, 29 RBI, .401 SLG, .735 OPS, 1.3 WAR
2013 Stats: .262 BA, 11 HR, 27 RBI, .465 SLG, .791 OPS, 2.0 WAR
There haven't been a whole lot of bright spots for the Houston Astros this season, but Jason Castro has been one of them.
Apart from successfully managing a sloppy pitching rotation, he has become one of the better-hitting catchers in the MLB.
Castro has stroked the second-most long balls among American League catchers and has raised his power numbers across the board.
He might not be a huge surprise, but the Astros have been as bad as advertised, and he remains the biggest surprise for the team.
Kansas City Royals: SP Ervin Santana
2012 Stats: 30 GS, 9-13, 5.16 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, -1.5 WAR
2013 Stats: 16 GS, 5-5, 2.84 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 2.1 WAR
Ervin Santana has undergone a complete transformation from 2012 to 2013. Perhaps all he needed was a change of scenery, leaving L.A. in favor of Kansas City, and the Royals' new ace has been incredible.
Last year, Santana averaged fewer than six innings pitched per start. However, this year he is averaging roughly seven innings per start because he has been so dominant.
His ERA has been cut almost in half, and the Royals have found themselves a legitimate ace who is having the best year of his career.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: RF Josh Hamilton
2012 Stats: .285 BA, 43 HR, 128 RBI, .577 SLG, .931 OPS, 3.3 WAR
2013 Stats: .226 BA, 11 HR, 31 RBI, .400 SLG, .688 OPS, 0.1 WAR
Like most major 2012 free-agent signings, Josh Hamilton hasn't panned out, and he could be the biggest signing and the biggest flop of them all.
Hamilton was a terrific power hitter who has become the second player to fall victim to the Albert Pujols Effect. In other words, he was an elite batter who came over to the Los Angeles Angels and struggled.
Hamilton's OPS has fallen 259 points, and his WAR went from substantially positive to negative.
After signing his five-year, $133 million deal with the Angels, Hamilton has become a bust, and he is a big reason why the team is 8.5 games back in the AL West.
Los Angeles Dodgers: RF Yasiel Puig
2012 Stats: N/A
2013 Stats: .430, 8 HR, 19 RBI, .719 SLG, 1.174 OPS, 2.4 WAR (29 games)
Yasiel Puig has only been in the MLB for about a month, but he's already in the All-Star conversation and has become one of the best players in the bigs.
The 22-year-old Cuban phenom has taken the league by storm. If he were to keep these numbers up over a 81-game span, he'd post a .443 batting average, 24 home runs and 51 RBI and would be in the conversation for MVP.
There are few five-tool guys like Puig in the league, and he has a bright career ahead of him after bursting onto the scene.
Miami Marlins: RF Giancarlo Stanton
2012 Stats: .290 BA, 37 HR, 86 RBI, .608 SLG, .969 OPS, 5.4 WAR
2013 Stats: .250 BA, 8 HR, 22 RBI, .450 SLG, .794 OPS, -0.3 WAR
Giancarlo Stanton was supposed to be one of the few bright spots for the Miami Marlins this year, but he has struggled mightily.
Stanton has had the worst year of his career by far in 2013, with all of his numbers being down.
The Marlins are having a rough year, and Stanton hasn't helped them at all.
Milwaukee Brewers: SS Jean Segura
2012 Stats: .258 BA, 0 HR, 14 RBI, .325 SLG, .640 OPS, 0.1 WAR (45 games)
2013 Stats: .323 BA, 11 HR, 33 RBI, .497 SLG, .856 OPS, 3.2 WAR
Jean Segura wasn't exactly a big name in 2012, with his biggest headline being that he was traded from the Los Angeles Angels to the Milwaukee Brewers after just one game in the MLB.
However, in his first full season, Segura has been sensational, batting a ridiculous .325. That's the same as his slugging from last season.
After raising his OPS by 221 points and his WAR by 3.1, he has become one of the top-hitting middle infielders in the game today, leading all MLB middle infielders in batting average this season.
Minnesota Twins: SP Vance Worley
2012 Stats: 23 GS, 6-9, 4.20 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 0.7 WAR
2013 Stats: 10 GS, 1-5, 7.21 ERA, 1.99 WHIP, -1.3 WAR
Vance Worley looked like a future star with the Philadelphia Phillies, but the Minnesota Twins haven't gotten the same production from him this season.
The Vanimal posted a 1.32 ERA when he first made it to the MLB and a 3.01 ERA in his first full season. However, he struggled a bit in 2012 before completely falling apart in 2013 with the Twins.
Worley has struggled in the American League, having only three starts in which he's given up fewer than four earned runs and going 0-1 in those starts.
The 25-year-old Worley looked like he could be a future ace, but now he looks out of place in the big leagues.
New York Mets: SP Matt Harvey
2012 Stats: 10 GS, 3-5, 2.73 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 1.5 WAR
2013 Stats: 18 GS, 7-2, 2.27 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 4.2 WAR
Matt Harvey was solid when he pitched late in 2012, but in 2013 he has been arguably the best pitcher in the MLB.
Harvey ranks first in the MLB in WHIP (0.85), second in ERA (2.00) and second in WAR (4.5) this season and is in the conversation for the NL Cy Young Award.
This kid is the future of the New York Mets, and the team must be thrilled with the way he's been pitching in his first full season.
New York Yankees: RP Mariano Rivera
2012 Stats: 9 GP, 5 SV, 1 BLSV, 2.16 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 0.4 WAR
2013 Stats: 35 GP, 28 SV, 1 BLSV, 1.44 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 1.4 WAR
After having his 2012 season cut short by a torn ACL suffered when shagging fly balls, Mariano Rivera is back for his final season in the MLB, and he's better than ever.
Mo has been untouchable this season, converting 27-of-28 save opportunities, with the one exception coming against the New York Mets.
At 43 years old, Rivera has been as dominant as ever and could finish with a career-high 54 saves.
Oakland Athletics: SP Bartolo Colon
2012 Stats: 24 GS, 10-9, 3.43 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 2.3 WAR
2013 Stats: 17 GS, 11-3, 2.78 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 3.1 WAR
The Oakland Athletics have had a few surprises this year, including Josh Donaldson and Jed Lowrie. However, none has been bigger than the 40-year-old version of Bartolo Colon.
Colon could be one of the oldest pitchers to reach 20 wins in MLB history, as he sits at 11-2 through the month of June.
Apparently no one told Colon that pitchers are supposed to struggle at the age of 40, and he keeps on trucking.
Philadelphia Phillies: RF Domonic Brown
2012 Stats: .235 BA, 5 HR, 26 RBI, .396 SLG, .712 OPS, -1.0 WAR (56 games)
2013 Stats: .279 BA, 22 HR, 60 RBI, .549 SLG, .875 OPS, 2.7 WAR
Domonic Brown was always supposed to be a great outfielder, but he finally went from prospect to star this season.
In his 147 games preceding this season, Brown had hit just 12 home runs. However, this year he already has 21 and is second in the NL in dingers.
Brown's emergence as a true slugger can be traced back to when he hit 10 home runs in 12 games at the end of May into the beginning of June, and now he looks like the future of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Pittsburgh Pirates: RP Jason Grilli
2012 Stats: 64 GP, 2 SV, 3 BLSV, 2.91 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 0.9 WAR
2013 Stats: 40 GP, 28 SV, 1 BLSV, 2.15 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 1.0 WAR
There hasn't been a better closer than Jason Grilli this year, which says a lot since this is his first year as a closer.
The 36-year-old reliever was named the Pittsburgh Pirates closer because there weren't any other options, but he's converted 27-of-28 save chances and has a better ERA and WHIP than even Mariano Rivera.
Grilli is a big reason why the Bucs lead the NL Central and have the best record in baseball.
San Diego Padres: SS Everth Cabrera
2012 Stats: .246, 2 HR, 24 RBI, .324 SLG, .648 OPS, 1.5 WAR
2013 Stats: .305, 4 HR, 24 RBI, .418 SLG, .800 OPS, 3.1 WAR
Everth Cabrera went from one of the worst-hitting shortstops to one of the best from 2012 to 2013.
Last season, Cabrera couldn't muster any power when he hit the ball, with his slugging percentage being the same as his on-base percentage and hitting just two home runs.
However, through 69 games this season, Cabrera already has twice as many dingers and as many RBI as he had in 115 games last year. He has also raised his batting average by 59 points and his OPS by 152 points.
Cabrera still isn't a power hitter, but he does rank second in batting average among NL shortstops, trailing only Jean Segura.
San Francisco Giants: SP Matt Cain
2012 Stats: 32 GS, 16-5, 2.79 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 3.6 WAR
2013 Stats: 17 GS, 5-4, 4.29 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 0.3 WAR
Remember when Matt Cain was a Cy Young candidate and threw a perfect game last season? If you've only watched him this year, you'd never believe it.
Cain has struggled all year, with his ERA ballooning by 1.50 and the San Francisco Giants struggling because of it, going 8-9 when their "ace" is on the mound.
A big reason why Cain has been struggling is that he has been surrendering home runs. He's given up 16 dingers this season, compared to just 21 last season, which is a big reason why his WHIP remains low but his ERA is high.
Power hitters are taking advantage of Cain this year, which is why he's been so bad through the first half of the season.
Seattle Mariners: LF Raul Ibanez
2012 Stats: .240 BA, 19 HR, 62 RBI, .453 SLG, .761 OPS, 0.3 WAR
2013 Stats: .257 BA, 21 HR, 49 RBI, .564 SLG, .870 OPS, 0.7 WAR
At 41 years old, Raul Ibanez's power numbers are off the charts.
In just 62 games this year, Ibby already has more home runs than he did last year in fewer than half the games played. If he keeps this up, he could easily be in for a 40-home-run season.
Unfortunately for Ibanez his teammates aren't getting on ahead of him and giving him chances to knock in runs, or else his RBI numbers would be way up.
We know that Ibanez will be the first player to hit 30 home runs in a season after turning 40, but if this keeps up, he could conceivably be the next player to hit 40-plus home runs without reaching the 100-RBI plateau as well.
St. Louis Cardinals: SP Shelby Miller
2012 Stats: 6 GP, 1-0, 1.32 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 0.5 WAR
2013 Stats: 17 GS, 9-6, 2.89 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 2.5 WAR
Can you honestly say you knew who Shelby Miller was before this season? Sure, he was a top prospect, but no one expected him to be this good.
Miller has become one of the early candidates for the NL Rookie of the Year Award and has formed one of the best one-two punches in baseball alongside Adam Wainwright.
Miller's incredible power has led him to a very successful start in the MLB, and no one could've seen this coming.
Tampa Bay Rays: SP David Price
2012 Stats: 31 GS, 20-5, 2.56 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 6.4 WAR
2013 Stats: 10 GS, 2-4, 4.65 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, -0.3 WAR
David Price might have had a good outing in his last start, but he still has looked nothing like the 2012 Cy Young winner this season.
Price has looked shaky all year, hit the DL on May 15 and didn't pitch again until July 2. He has been getting shelled, and he just can't fool hitters like he could last year.
Price is crucial to the success of the Tampa Bay Rays, so don't expect the team to make it to the postseason if he can't right the ship.
Texas Rangers: CF Leonys Martin
2012 Stats: .174 BA, 0 HR, 6 RBI, .370 SLG, .605 OPS, -0.2 WAR
2013 Stats: .291 BA, 5 HR, 15 RBI, .442 SLG, .782 OPS, 2.5 WAR
Leonys Martin went from being a subpar backup to a talented everyday player this year when needed.
The Texas Rangers have asked Martin to step in and try to fill the shoes of the departed Josh Hamilton. While he isn't going to blast 43 home runs and knock in 128 RBI like Hamilton did for the team last year, he has played surprisingly well and is doing better than the 2013 version of Hamilton.
Considering that this kid only had 54 major league at-bats entering the season, Martin has been wonderful for the Rangers, batting close to .300 and providing a spark for the team offensively.
Toronto Blue Jays: SP R.A. Dickey
2012 Stats: 33 GS, 20-6, 2.73 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 5.4 WAR
2013 Stats: 18 GS, 8-8, 4.59 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 0.9 WAR
R.A. Dickey was one of the biggest acquisitions this past offseason after winning the NL Cy Young Award.
Dickey was supposed to join Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson to form a terrific starting rotation to back a lineup led by Jose Reyes and Jose Bautista. However, all three pitchers have struggled, but none has been more surprising than the knuckleballer.
Dickey was untouchable last season, but this year he has been getting shelled in the AL.
Washington Nationals: SP Dan Haren
2012 Stats: 30 GS, 12-13, 4.33 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, -0.6 WAR
2013 Stats: 15 GS, 4-9, 6.15 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, -1.5 WAR
Remember that season when Dan Haren posted an ERA below 3.00? I don't.
If you don't either, it's probably because he never has. Haren has posted ERAs of 3.17, 3.14 and 3.07 in different seasons and has been a solid pitcher throughout his career. However, this year he's fallen apart.
Haren made 15 starts this year before hitting the DL, posting a minus-1.5 WAR that would be the lowest of his career by a mile if this continues.
The Washington Nationals brought Haren in as a risky pitcher, hoping that he would post an ERA that started with the number three, but instead his ERA is 6.15 as we enter the All-Star break.
Haren has been getting shelled, posting what would be career-worsts in ERA, WHIP and WAR he keeps this pace up, and the Nats couldn't have seen this coming when they acquired him.